BuzzOptics, an online device refurbisher start-up announced last week the sale of it’s 700th refurbished ophthalmic device since inception just one-and-a-half years ago. The online startup sells over 120 different (computerized) diagnostic instruments on the internet (most of which are no longer supported by the manufacturer), after each is put through a rigorous restoration process that restores them back to original factory specifications.
Their pricing is strikingly low when compared to similar yet new technology, warranties come standard, and the finished product practically looks and works like new. They also write thorough clinical reviews and self-proclaim their product descriptions as “raw and better than the original brochure.”
Their business model is atypical. Unlike the manufacturers of the devices they sell, their website is designed for instant checkout, and pricing is disclosed without any form of account or registration. They also openly disclose user manuals, troubleshooting information, and self-repair hacks for nearly every device listed. Devices that have been categorized as ‘obsolete’ from the manufacturer are rebuilt using a combination of refurbished and new parts, created by BuzzOptics to replace the existing component. The device still meets the factory’s set-forth specifications.
As manufacturers continually release new devices at greater markups, older devices are marked obsolete and cut-off from repair; warranty and service options are abandoned and consumer physicians are encouraged to purchase new instruments or be stuck with a ‘sunsetted device’. Those now abandon devices cannot be ordinarily disposed of, and most brands don’t offer significant trade-in options or incentives.
The history of planned obsolescence within medical device markets is not of new discussion. Carl Zeiss Meditech for decades now has outright refused to discuss certain (sunsetted) instruments over their phone support lines, and most Ophthalmic manufacturers opt-not to sell parts or offer resources that could help consumers fix their own units. Attempted ‘Electronics Right-to-Repair’ legislation has gained some traction in recent years, but physicians seeking to hold onto instruments or devices for greater lengths of time still have limited options.
The success of BuzzOptics is further proof of a large and ever-growing refurbished medical device market— expected to grow by 10.8% through 2023. Consumer physicians in private practice— Buzz’s primary customer, seek a greater return through devices that posses similar technology to even that of new devices. Samuel Taguchi, a BuzzOptics’ customer service agent I spoke with over the phone explained the similarities between a 7-year old Autorefractor- a device that objectively measures the visual defect of the cornea- and a similar brand new device: “Although newer instruments may opt for greater convenience, and networking options, Autorefraction hasn’t changed much. Devices produced last decade still use much of the same refracting principles that newer ones do.”
BuzzOptics claims that their lower priced, online model also allows greater access to care- offering physicians the ability to purchase more- anywhere in the world. Buzz currently ships to over 60 countries with free shipping to North America and can be visited https//:buzzoptics.us